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Home » Headline, News

Condor Nest At Park For First Time in 100 Years

Submitted by on March 10, 2010 – 2:59 am2 Comments
California Condor #318 at nest by John Maio

California Condor #318 at nest by John Maio

For the first time in more than 100 years, a California Condor nest appears at the Pinnacles National Monument which is located about 5 hours north of Los Angeles, California.

Two 7 year old California Condors, a female released in the park in 2004 and a male released along the Big Sur coast during the same year, were observed performing courtship rituals earlier this year. Last Friday, biologists hiked to their nest and confirmed that there is in fact an egg! It’s located in a cave on top of a cliff known to rock climbers as Resurrection Wall.

Eric Brunnemann, Pinnacle National Monument Superintendent, said in a statement:

We are thrilled that after being involved with the Condor Recovery Program since 2003, the park has its first nest in over 100 years … and conveniently Condors 317 and 318 chose a nest cave that can be easily viewed by the public from the Scout Peak bench on the High Peaks Trail.

Poaching, poison and lead shot left in the carcasses the birds fed on drastically reduced the number of California Condors. Eventually, in 1987 only 22 birds were left! In an attempt to save the species from extinction, conservationists captured the remaining wild birds and started a captive breeding program at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo.

Slowly, the birds were reintroduced into California, Arizona and Baja California. Today, there are 348 California Condors in the wild and 161 in captive breeding centers. The goal of the California Condor Recovery Plan is to have 450 wild birds in three distinct populations, with 15 breeding pairs in each group. Then the California Condor could be downlisted from Endangered to Threatened.

I think it’s really important to also mention the hard work biologists must do to help these new parents.

The reality is that without the help of humans the egg may not survive. What happens is that these birds often times feed on dead animals that can contain PCBs, the DDT derivative DDE and other poisons. Scientists believe that some of these pollutants make egg shells thin.

So, biologists swapped the egg with a wooden one. This may sound strange, but it is standard procedure for birds in this area due to all the contaminants.

The real egg will be safely hatched in captivity. In about 53 to 60 days, which is the normal incubation period, biologist will return to the nest and replace the wooden egg with an egg produced in captivity that is ready to hatch. This new chick will eventually take its first flight in about 5 or 6 months!

I understand if this sounds a little weird to some, but the birds will not know the difference. I think the most important thing is that the total number of wild California Condors will soon go from 348 to 349!

Hopefully, one day there is no longer a chemical threat and biologists won’t have to do all of this.

  • Kittyseye

    Whatever works to keep these birds with us! So glad to hear this good news :)

  • Kaz Horrocks

    How is this project coming along??